Community, Collaboration, and Authority: Museums and Technology

Technology is democracy. It can give everyone a voice or a vote. Sometimes this democracy works out well (kickstarter, etc). Sometimes not so much (@sweden, made some news recently). The Walter Art Musem in Baltimore tried crowdsourcing an exhibition that was pretty well received, but the Pittsburgh Symphony’s attempt to find a member on YouTube was nixed.

I am interested in a few questions relating to the democratizing force of technology in museums. First, should curators give up their authority, or have it take a lesser role in concert with visitor knowledge (I believe one of Mills Kelly’s students found an error in the Star Spangled Banner exhibit)? Is curatorial authority still needed? Secondly, is there a limit to the voice of the public? Should comments be moderated in historically sensitive areas (slavery, World War II, etc.). Do comments need to turn into conversation to be truly useful?And finally, what do you do if no one really cares? In a 2004 visitor survey conducted by the Smithsonian, the average age of the visitors was 37 years, only 30% of visitors were younger than 27. The museums subreddit has 25 subscribers with seven posts in two years. Are museums still culturally relevant, and will they be in 20 years?

Things I’d love to discuss

Using GIT
I “get” GIT–I see the utility–I see the logic–I see why it’s great. But I’d love some discussion on how to start using it, what are some preferred GIT clients, and what the best-GIT-practices are. If this conversation could be combined with a western-twanged series of puns on the word “git,” that would be ideal.

Digital Scholarly Editions
This is my main DH interest at the moment. I would love to talk about:

  • Issues of encoding
  • What software platforms people are using (Islandora, Omeka, by-hand?)
  • Excellent, and execrable, examples of digital scholarly editions
  • Issues of copyright (i.e. “Do ALL digital editions have to be out of copyright???”)
  • What kinds of scholarly apparatus do digital editions facilitate that were harder or impossible in paper editions?
  • Multi-media digital editions

Working without institutional infrastructure
AKA, when you’re more alt than ac :)
For the many of us who are still on the hunt for the permanent position, how do we think about the issues of our digital work differently? For example, in a workshop I was once in, someone said: “This is what you’ll need to tell your design team…” What about when we ARE our team? What are the dangers of developing digital tools, editions, creations of any kind on resources provided by a university where you are only a temporary employee? How do we access resources? How do our grant applications differ? How do we access the support systems we need to make our work…work?